This is our guide to visiting Iqaluit, part of our series of crowd-sourced Nunavut community travel guides. If you would like to write a guide for your community, please send us an email! This Iqaluit travel guide was written by us.
Iqaluit is the territorial capital of Nunavut and the place we call home. Given Iqaluit's relatively large size – in both population and development – there are many amenities for visitors, including two airline companies, several tourism operators, half-a-dozen accommodation options, and numerous restaurants. Although much tourism in Nunavut focuses on more remote locales, Iqaluit should be seen not only as a gateway but also as a destination. And so, we have created this brief Iqaluit travel guide. This is not an exhaustive list of what is available in Iqaluit, but it should provide visitors with a great foundation to plan a trip to our town.
How to Get Here
Your two airline options are Canadian North and First Air. Both airlines fly to Iqaluit directly from Ottawa daily, sometimes twice a day. First Air flies to Iqaluit directly from Montreal each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Check out our Getting to Iqaluit and How to Book Aeroplan to Iqaluit blog posts for more travel tips.
When to Come
his really depends on what you'd like to do in Iqaluit. Spring (we recommend April and May) is the best time for outdoor winter activities, and includes Iqaluit's annual Toonik Tyme Festival. Summer (we recommend July and August) is the best time for hiking and camping, and includes Iqaluit's annual Alianait Arts Festival as well as Canada Day and Nunavut Day celebrations. Labour Day weekend is great if you are interested in berry-picking, though the temperatures do start to cool off. Winter is incredible, with endless blue bird skies, but extreme cold warnings will hinder your ability to get out and about. And of course, if you're interested in the aurora, the best months for viewing are between November and April.
Where to Eat
I Like CAKE
Opened in 2013, I Like CAKE is Iqaluit's newest restaurant. It quickly caught the attention of Iqalummiut, and even earned itself the 2014 Frozen Globe for Best New Business. Owner and operator, Sadie Vincent-Wolfe, makes everything from scratch and regularly tweets the daily specials. Located right downtown, it's a favourable spot for a delicious homemade lunch. Price: $15-20
Yummy Shawarma arrived in Iqaluit in 2011 and quickly became a local hotspot due to its convenient and affordable food. Winner of our 2014 Best Casual Lunch and Best Takeaway categories, this Lebanese joint offers the obvious (e.g. shawarma, donair, falafel, tabbouleh, baklava) and the not-so-obvious (e.g. pizza, pasta, lasagna). Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Delivery available. Price: $10-30
Grind & Brew
Grind & Brew is not only an Iqaluit restaurant, it is an Iqaluit institution. Owner and operator, Brian Twerdin, has been running Grind & Brew since 1999. The menu is diverse, and offers fare from all over the world, including North American, Italian, Chinese, and Thai. But you must go for the pizza. Don't believe us? Iqaluit voted, and Grind & Brew won our 2014 Best Pizza category. Grind & Brew also offers an affordable lunch special from Tuesday to Friday that includes a drink, soup, and main. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Delivery available. Price: $20-30
Caribrew Cafe offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods made fresh daily. As its name implies, it also serves a variety of hot and cold beverages. In fact, Caribrew Cafe is the winner of Best Coffee in the 2014 Best of Iqaluit poll, and it's no wonder – it is the only place in town where you can reliably get a latté. Caribrew Cafe is located in the Astro Hill Complex and is open Monday to Friday from 7:00am to 6:00pm and weekends and holidays from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Price: $5-10
The Gallery is one of Iqlauit's two most popular upscale dining options. Winner of Best Breakfast, Best Upscale Lunch, and Best All-You-Can-Eat Brunch categories in 2014, The Gallery appears to be a local favourite for at least a few tasty reasons. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Price: $15-60
The Granite Room
The Granite Room won our Best Upscale Dinner category, probably due to the high quality food that is served, including local country food. Like The Gallery, the Granite Room also offers an epic all-you-can-eat brunch on Sundays. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Price: $15-65
Other This may surprise you, but Iqaluit has far too many restaurants to list here. To help pick a spot, check out some locally-vetted restaurants in our Best of Iqaluit 2014 results blog post.
Where to Sleep
With 95 rooms, the Frobisher Inn is Iqaluit's largest hotel. Perched on a hill overlooking downtown, "The Frob" (as it is colloquially called) is part of the Astro Hill Complex, which also includes the Astro movie theatre, Storehouse Bar & Grill, The Gallery restaurant, Caribrew Café, Quickstop convenience store, and a fitness centre (free to use for hotel guests). Price: Room rates start at $225 per night and include a free airport shuttle
Located right downtown, Hotel Arctic offers both standard rooms with a mini fridge and a microwave as well as suites with a kitchenette. If you don't feel like cooking, you need not go far – Water's Edge Seafood and Steakhouse as well as Kickin' Caribou Pub are located in the same building. Hotel Arctic also includes a fitness centre if you want to break a sweat while overlooking Frobisher Bay. Price: Room rates start at $224 per night
The Discovery is Iqaluit's recently-renovated boutique hotel. Located downtown, it is conveniently situated between the main drag and the airport. The hotel has an attached restaurant, the Granite Room, and offers luxury living in the North. Price: Room rates start at $230 per night and include a free airport shuttle
Capital Suites is a good option if you're looking for something a little more long term, as it provides private kitchens in its 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom suites. However, it still offers basic studio rooms if you're here for a quick overnighter. It's located in the heart of downtown, and guests have access to its fitness centre. Price: Room rates start at $224 per night
Nunattaq Suites is a cozy yet spacious 4-bedroom bed and breakfast with an unbeatable lake view. This is a great option if you're looking for access to a living room, laundry room, and kitchen during your stay. And hey, breakfast is included! The Suites are located in the Road to Nowhere subdivision, so be prepared for a 25-30 minute walk downtown or a $7 flat-rate taxi ride if that's where you need to be. Price: Rooms cost $198.45 (tax included) per night
Accommodations by the Sea
Accommodations by the Sea is a lovely 6-bedroom bed and breakfast directly overlooking Frobisher Bay. You seriously could not ask for a better view. The kitchen, balcony, laundry facilities, and living/dining area make this place feel like a home away from home. Located in the Tundra Valley neighbourhood, visitors can expect a 30-45 minute walk or a $7 flat-rate taxi ride downtown. As a bonus, Accommodations by the Sea offers a free airport shuttle. Price: N/A
Couchsurfing or Airbnb
If you're looking for a cheaper or possibly free option for accommodations in Iqaluit, check out the local Couchsurfing or Airbnb pages. For couchsurfers, there are a few available hosts in town, ready to offer a spare room or couch for zero dollars a night. For a low-cost but more private option, Airbnb offers several options. Price: $0-249 per night
What to Do
The Nunatta Museum and the Unikkaarvik Visitor's Centre, located side-by-side on the shore of Frobisher Bay, are a great place to start your trip. The Museum is particular is the perfect place to pick up an affordably-priced, unique souvenir.
If you're the adventuresome type, Iqaluit is the place for you. In the winter, you can go dog sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. In the summer, you can go fishing, picnicking, kayaking, and hiking. You can arrange these yourself, or get some help from local tour operators. Which brings us to our next option...
Book a tour package (or two... or three...)
Iqaluit has a lot of great tour companies that offer all sorts of activities. Tour Iqaluit, a local subsidiary of Nunavut-based Arctic Kingdom, offers everything from boating to Qaummaarviit Territorial Park to snowmobiling to the floe edge to scuba diving in Frobisher Bay. Inukpak Outfitting is a popular option for dogsledding, and also offers snowmobiling, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking. Tiriaq Expediting specializes in ATV rentals and tours.
Go shopping Whether you're looking for sealskin mittens or a soapstone carving, there's a good chance you'll find it here. Iqaluit boasts some fantastic artwork, handicrafts, jewelry, and clothing, all handmade by some seriously talented Iqalummiut. To get an idea of your local options, check out our Shopping in Iqaluit blog post.
Walk around The best way to get a feel for a community is to explore on foot – you’d be surprised at what you might find. From a polar bear skin being stretched to dry, to a fisherman bringing in his catch from the day, to a group of young Iqalummiut playing street hockey. If you want to stroll some subdivisions, check out our Iqaluit Neighbourhood Guide blog post. If you're looking for something outdoorsy, try hiking the trail to Apex, the paths throughout Sylvia Grinnell Park, and the Road to Nowhere.
Check out the nightlife Warning: some nights are more lively than others. But if you're here on a Wednesday, Wing Night is a must-do. You have two main options in town: the Legion and the Storehouse Bar and Grill. Check out our Iqaluit Wing Night blog post for a comparison of the two.
If it’s a bar for evening drinks you’re looking for, your main options are the Legion, the Storehouse Bar and Grill, and the Kickin' Caribou Pub. The Storehouse won Best Bar this year, and has a pretty awesome Arctic ambiance. The Legion won Best Dance Floor and is the place to be on a Friday and/or Saturday night. Please note that if you want to go to the Legion, you will need a member to sign you in.
Other Again, there are too many options to name, and surely we should leave something to the imagination! While you're here, be sure to keep your ears open, look for posters around town and check out Iqaluit Public Service Announcements for local events.